Very Bad Things

Riots aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

Scottie Nell Hughes,
a Tea Party activist who has campaigned with Donald Trump

This week’s featured post is “Tick, Tick, Tick … the Augustus Countdown Continues“.

This week everybody was talking about the Supreme Court

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the seat vacated when Justice Scalia died.  As Chief Judge of the second-most-powerful court in the country, Garland is arguably the most important judge not already on the Supreme Court. If you’re just looking at pure legal qualifications, this is the most qualified person Obama could have picked.

So this much is clear: President Obama did his job and played it straight, offering the Senate someone they have no reason to treat as if he had cooties. If there’s some weird political gamesmanship going on, it comes the other side.

Many progressives are disappointed, wishing Obama had made a bolder, more liberal choice — not to mention a younger nominee who might expect to be around for several decades, rather than a 63-year-old. (Another name often mentioned is Sri Srinivasan, who is 49.) But at a time when the Senate is controlled by the opposite party, I think it’s appropriate to trim in their direction just a bit, making agreement easier and obstruction harder.

I’m feeling a little smug about the advice I gave right after Justice Scalia’s death:

If I were Obama, I would take McConnell’s obstruction threat seriously, and appoint whoever I thought would work best in a why-don’t-they-do-their-jobs attack ad. I’d be looking for a Mr. Rogers type: Somebody who exudes a sense of basic decency, who wouldn’t ring any alarm bells about affirmative action or political correctness.

That’s pretty much what he did.

and primary results

Democrats. Sanders’ hope for winning the nomination depended on keeping Clinton’s victories isolated in the South, with her Massachusetts win looking like a fluke. Yes, she had a big delegate lead, but that was because the Southern primaries all came early in the process; everything would change when the big rust belt states started voting.

His surprise win in Michigan seemed portentous, even if didn’t do much to close the gap. (Because the vote was so close, Sanders only got 4 more delegates out of Michigan than Clinton did.) What if he gained momentum and swept the other Midwestern industrial states by larger margins?

Well, now we know that isn’t going to happen. Tuesday, Clinton finished her Southern sweep by decisively winning Florida and North Carolina. But more importantly, she also won big in Ohio, narrowly in Illinois, by an infinitesimal margin in Missouri. Sanders did not win anywhere. So now it’s Michigan that looks like the fluke.

I know a lot of you aren’t going to want to hear this, but it’s over; Clinton will be nominated. There are no winner-take-all states on the Democratic calendar that would allow Sanders to catch up in big chunks, and that’s what he needs to do.

Nate Silver sums up:

It’s not that it’s mathematically impossible for Sanders to win; Clinton could have some sort of epic meltdown. But she controls her own fate while Sanders doesn’t really control his, and she has quite a lot of tolerance for error.

The Sanders campaign argues that the calendar has turned in their favor; now that the South is out of the way, the remaining primaries are better for them. And that’s true, but not on the scale they need. Here the significant number isn’t Clinton’s 327-delegate lead in the raw count, but that she’s 112 delegates ahead of the pace Silver’s model says she needs if she’s going to win, taking state characteristics into account. (If the delegate count were currently 1050-968 in Clinton’s favor, Silver would regard the race as essentially even, given that Sanders’ worst states are behind him. But she actually leads 1162-835.)

For example, suppose Sanders were to win 41 of Arizona’s 75 delegates tomorrow. (The most recent poll shows Clinton well ahead, but it’s not very reliable.) That would lower Clinton’s raw lead by 7, but since Silver’s model tagged Arizona as Sanders-favorable going in and set 34 as Clinton’s delegate target, she would remain 112 delegates ahead of her projected winning pace.

Republicans. Donald Trump also had a good day Tuesday, but his prospects are murkier. He leads Cruz and Kasich in delegates 695-424-144, but he has less than half of the delegates awarded so far, and Silver’s model has him 24 delegates behind the pace he needs if he’s going to win a majority.

The RCP national polling average has Trump fluctuating between 30-40%, with Cruz and Kasich both rising and the open question of what Rubio’s supporters will do now that he’s out of the race. The only post-Rubio poll has Trump/Cruz/Kasich at 43/28/21. So there’s a real possibility Trump will enter this summer’s Republican Convention with a clear delegate lead, but not the majority necessary to nominate him.

Sanders and Kasich are both being told that if you can’t win you should quit. This seems silly to me: If you have a case to make and the means to make it, I don’t see the problem. If the candidate, donors, and volunteers are willing to accept the risk that they may be wasting their time and money, that’s up to them.

On the other hand, if your last chance is to run a harshly negative campaign against your party’s front-runner, that raises a different question: Is your slim hope of victory so important that it’s worth sabotaging your party in the more likely case that you don’t get nominated? But that’s more a question of tactics than of continuing or quitting. So far, neither Sanders nor Kasich has been that negative.

One message coming from the Sanders camp is starting to annoy me: They never say it in so many words, but they often imply that their supporters should count more than Clinton’s supporters.

For example, when they start enthusing about Sanders’ support among young voters, even in primaries that he lost, I find myself thinking: “Yeah, but each under-30 voter only gets one vote, and older voters get one vote too.”

I hear something similar in the more recent argument that if Sanders wins a bunch of late primaries, the superdelegates should respect his momentum and give him the nomination, even if Clinton has won more non-super delegates (subdelegates?) and gotten more total votes. Sanders strategist Tad Devine even suggests pledged delegates should break faith with the voters who elected them if Sanders wins late primaries: “When a frontrunner assumes the lead, that frontrunner needs to win to the end.”

Again: Everyone agrees that the early primaries favored Clinton and the late ones favor Sanders. But late-primary voters, like early-primary voters, should just get one vote.

If you’re a Democrat fretting over the higher turnout in Republican primaries this year, 538‘s Harry Enten says you should stop:

Democrats shouldn’t worry. Republicans shouldn’t celebrate. As others have pointed out, voter turnout is an indication of the competitiveness of a primary contest, not of what will happen in the general election. The GOP presidential primary is more competitive than the Democratic race.

He has the historical analysis to back that up. A particularly striking example is 1988, when (like today) a two-term president was headed out the door: The Democratic primary turnout that year was nearly double the Republican, but Bush beat Dukakis decisively in the fall.

and let’s follow up on some previous discussions

Trump as con man. I talked about this two weeks ago in “Peak Drumpf“. The New Yorker consults an expert: Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game. She never makes a definite pronouncement, claiming you’d have to see into Trump’s head to be sure, but the upshot of her article “Donald Trump, Con Artist?” is: Yeah, probably.

Trump-inspired violence. [discussed last week] Of course there were new incidents, since Trump has done nothing to tone things down. As VoxDara Lind concludes:

Maybe it’s gone so far that even Donald Trump can’t stop it. But no one knows that yet, because Donald Trump hasn’t tried.

In the both-parties-are-the-same version of reality, Bernie Sanders is the Democratic equivalent of Donald Trump. But look how each responds to accusations that he promotes his supporters’ aggressive behavior.

Bernie draws a clear line between peaceful protest and disruptive violence.

We have never — not once — urged any supporter of ours to disrupt a meeting, and I think that’s kind of counter-productive. Having a respectful demonstration, a protest, is I think absolutely right. … [but] disrupting rallies is not my style. I would urge people not to do that.

Trump, on the other hand, never completely disowns his followers’ violence, or draws any clear line at all. Sometimes he openly praises violence, saying things like “Maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up.” and “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?” and “I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”

When he does distance himself from acts of violence, the message is always mixed. A vague denial that he condones or promotes violence is followed with praise for his violent supporters: They are “very passionate“. They have “spirit“. They “love this country“. (I hear echoes of the way a wifebeater excuses his crimes: He loves this woman so much she just makes him crazy.) Their victims are “bad dudes … big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people” — damage that for some reason is never caught on video, despite happening in rooms full of Trump supporters with smart phones. (BTW: What racial image is conjured up by the phrase bad dude?)

This week, when Trump predicted riots at the Republican Convention if he isn’t nominated — a scenario that I don’t think was in the public mind until that moment — he did not condemn the possibility or commit himself to trying to stop it, but said only “I wouldn’t lead it.” A prominent Trump supporter (though not quite a spokesman) went farther while talking to Wolf Blitzer:

Riots aren’t necessarily a bad thing … [Not] if it means it’s because [Trump supporters are] fighting the fact that our establishment Republican Party has gone corrupt and decided to ignore the voice of the people and ignore the process.

Huffington Post reporters Daniel Marans and Ryan Grim lay out six steps to brownshirt-like violence. The Chicago protest could mark the beginning of Step 4: The opposition fights back. Trump’s tweet “Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to your [events]!” threatens Step 5: Going on offense. (Though that threat hasn’t materialized yet.) Next comes Step 6: Picking a shirt (or hat) color.

I’ve seen claims that Step 6 is happening too, but so far I’m not convinced: The so-called Lion’s Guard looks more like a small-scale fascist group (I use that word carefully, having read their blog) trying to get publicity than an organic Trump-supporter group with serious membership. From what I’ve seen so far, it could just be one guy with an overactive imagination.

Apple vs. FBI. I talked about this last month. More recently Jonathan Zdziarski writes:

At the end of the day, I sit here and look at the core questions that are on the table. Should the government have carte blanche rights to force anyone to work for them? Should the privacy of people’s entire past be subject to a warrant? Should people be allowed to have private conversations, private thoughts, private ideas – all things stored on people’s iPhones – subject to search by the government? I am honestly in shock, and saddened by the fact that any of these questions could be raised at all in this country.

And Boing Boing quotes Zdziarski’s summary of an Apple legal brief: “If it please the Court, tell the FBI to go fuck themselves.” That’s a “translation” of this:

Apple instead objects to the government’s attempted conscription of it to send individual citizens into a super-secure facility to write code for several weeks on behalf of the government on a mission that is contrary to the values of the company and these individuals.

Privileged Distress. Several people have pointed out the resonance between “When You’re Accustomed To Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression” and my second-most-popular post “The Distress of the Privileged” from 2012. It’s good to see these ideas spreading.

While we’re on the subject, Chicago Theological Seminary claims to give its students “white privilege glasses“.

The Bundys and their allies. [The Bundy-ranch stand-off was discussed in “Rights Are for People Like Us” and “Cliven Bundy and the Klan Komplex“. I covered the Malheur Refuge occupation week-to-week earlier this year.] The government is throwing the book at both father and son.

The Oregon incident drew Cliven Bundy away from his armed camp and into a situation where he could be easily arrested for charges stemming from the 2014 standoff at his ranch: “conspiracy, assault on a law enforcement officer, carrying a firearm in a crime of violence, obstruction of justice, interference with commerce by extortion and aiding and abetting others in breaking the law”. Thursday, his petition to be released from jail pending trial was denied. Judge Carl Hoffman explained:

I do not believe, Mr. Bundy, that you will comply with my court orders any more than you have complied with previous court orders.

Refusing to acknowledge federal authority — which I’m sure ingratiates him to the federal judge — Bundy has declined to enter a plea in the case.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, whose jurisdiction adjoins Harney County, where the Malheur Wildlife Refuge sits, openly sympathized with the occupiers, and is now under investigation by Oregon Justice Department for his role in the 41-day standoff.

The occupation’s leaders were on their way to meet with Palmer when they were arrested (in a confrontation where LaVoy Finnicum was killed). The state police originally planned to make the stop at a more tactically advantageous site in Grant County, but decided to avoid Palmer’s territory and instead set up their roadblock in Harney.

From jail, Ammon Bundy spoke out in Sheriff Palmer’s favor:

Sheriff Palmer went to the source and found out the truth. He found out that we at the refuge stood for the Constitution, [and the protesters] love this country and would not hurt another person.

That deep desire to harm no one must have been what all the guns were for.

Oregon Public Broadcasting has also been calling attention to the links between the Malheur occupiers and Republican politicians via the Coalition of Western States.

Ferguson. When we last talked about this, Ferguson’s city council had balked at full compliance with the deal it had negotiated with the feds, and the Justice Department responded by filing a lawsuit. That seems to have gotten them back into line. The issue going forward is whether Ferguson can survive financially or will have to go bankrupt. But it looks like they won’t be allowed to solve that problem by using their police force and municipal courts to squeeze money out of the poor.

and you might also be interested in

A concise explanation of how the rich have used race to divide the working classes, going all the way back to colonial times.

Vanity Fair imagines how things might have gone if Donald Trump had run as a Democrat. In some ways his appeal to working-class anger would work better there, but there would be a problem:

Democrats still make an effort to base their policies and debates, however imperfectly, on fact. That’s an awkward fit for Trump, who has a habit of making things up.

In case you’ve been hoping Republicans unite around Ted Cruz, think about the list foreign policy advisors he put out:

The first name on the list? Frank “Obama is a Muslim” Gaffney, Bloomberg reports. Gaffney is the Joe McCarthy of Islamophobia. His think tank, the Center for Security Policy, is dedicated to raising awareness about the jihadist infiltration of the American government. For Gaffney, Barack Hussein Obama is but the tip of the iceberg — in truth, the Muslim Brotherhood has placed operatives throughout the federal government. Among their top agents: Clinton adviser Huma Abedin and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist.

and let’s close with some Rose Garden rap

Many of you have probably seen this already, but it’s worth a second look. Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the Hamilton musical, shows President Obama how to freestyle.

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  • trumpo  On March 21, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Whats the math for dems to take back the senate? Their pres ground games been strong but losing both congressional houses has been a disaster. Blame redistricting or quality of candidates but this has to be solved or obstruction will continue.

    • weeklysift  On March 21, 2016 at 11:59 am

      I’m planning a longer article on that, but here’s Politico’s take on the subject:

      • trumpo  On March 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm

        Thx for the illuminating article the dems have their job cut out for them. Read a somewhat disturbing story about “what if hillary doesnt get 270.” Farfetched perhaps but in the realm of possibility. It would allow a 3rd party draftee (e.g, someone like paul ryan) to slip in w/anykind of plurality in anything assuming this-this-that-&-this happens. Democracy as we know it continues to crumble alright….

  • Tom Hutchinson  On March 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Where are the calls for Cruz to quit?

  • Abby Hafer  On March 21, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    I wish that Tim wise would have mentioned women. Women were also kept out of unions, not taught trades, and otherwise kept “under” men. If women had been welcomed into trades and unions, the membership would have been enormous, and women would have felt much more of a need to preserve unions and union power. As it is, convincing any woman (brown, black or white) that it is in HER best interest to help unions that are the preserves of men is extremely difficult, and with good reason.

  • WX Wall  On March 24, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Re: Sanders supporters saying their voters should count more.

    I agree with you that every voter is equally valuable. But quite frankly, this is pot calling the kettle black. Earlier on, it was Clinton supporters saying Bernie shouldn’t be the nominee if he can’t attract African American voters. To me (a Bernie supporter), this felt the same way, that somehow, minority voters were more important than the voters who supported Sanders. And the threat that if Sanders isn’t nominated, young people will stay home, feels very similar to the threat that if Hillary isn’t nominated, minorities will stay home. Calling out one without calling out the other is unfair.

    Of course, Sanders shouldn’t ignore minority voters and their concerns, and should do what it takes to overcome their reluctance to support him. But Hillary needs to do the same with Sanders supporters who may have concerns about her (which, for the record is not me; even though I support Sanders, I like Clinton as well and will happily vote for her in the general if she gets the nomination). I think that’s all most Sanders supporters want. Now how she can do that is a different question…

    • weeklysift  On March 25, 2016 at 9:01 am

      I’m willing to be corrected if someone can show me examples, but I don’t remember anyone saying that about Sanders. The point, as I remember it, was that he wouldn’t be nominated if he couldn’t attract non-white votes, not that he shouldn’t be. Iowa and NH are exceptionally white, so believers in the “Clinton firewall” didn’t think their results were indicative of the whole Democratic electorate.

      • WX Wall  On March 26, 2016 at 11:55 am

        Here’s an example:

        I guess I should define what I mean by black (when I say pot calling kettle black). I don’t mean that Clinton supporters hated Sanders or anything like that (and vice-versa, I’d add). Rather many thought that if Sanders couldn’t get minority support, he shouldn’t be the nominee because he would lose the general election. On the flip side, many Sanders supporters now are saying that if Clinton can’t get youth support, she shouldn’t be the nominee because she has a lower chance of winning the general (polls showing Sanders doing better than Clinton in matchups against Trump and Cruz).

        As a Sanders supporter, I think we should earn every vote we can, including minorities who have been crucial and longtime Democrats. But the winning coalition put together by Obama included minorities *and* young voters, both of whom came out in higher than usual numbers. Of course you want both groups, but is it less likely that minorities will vote for Sanders or youth will vote for Clinton in the general? And if you had to accept lower turnout in one group, which one gives you a better chance of general election success? Clinton supporters would argue the minority bloc gives a better chance of forming a winning general coalition, while Sanders supporters would argue the youth bloc would. I think that’s the fundamental argument between the two camps. Not that any single vote is more “important” than the other, but that overall, which set of voting groups has a high chance of success in the general election?

      • WX Wall  On March 26, 2016 at 11:57 am

        Sorry, forgot to include the money quote from the article I linked:

        If doing “better” with African Americans wins meaning three in 10 rather than one in 10, the Sanders coalition is in real trouble. No Democrat can win the party’s nomination with only a third of African-American voters. And no Democrat should.

      • weeklysift  On March 26, 2016 at 1:58 pm

        You read that quote with the emphasis on “should”, I read it with the emphasis on “can”. Can we agree that the candidate who gets the most votes ought to be the nominee, independent of those voters’ age or race?

      • WX Wall  On March 27, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        Absolutely! We are in agreement on that one 🙂

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